Did a little bit of work on the antenna and have come to the conclusion that I need to isolate the antenna from the mast to make it work properly. The way it stands right now, the entire garden shed frame is the counterpoise and that means I cannot tune each band by the radials as i should. I also need to add in a 1:1 balun to isolate the feedline also so its not part of the antenna as well.
But anyway, that aside, I got on the CW today and thought i would hit up the RBN to see what is happening. I was calling on 10m initially and my computer crashed, while i was dicking about with it someone came back to my call, pretty sure it was a VK3 but i was not really paying attention and missed the opportunity.
So off to do a tour of the bands, 15m was next and not much doing there and then 20m. So while calling on 20m I kind of got sidetracked with something else and just left the auto caller running and after about 15mins I actually made a contact with ZL1BWG. He was kind of weak to me, but got his call after a couple of tries and made the contact.
So its good to finally have the monkey off the back and to have made 1 CW contact in 6 weeks of trying. I have worked quite a few parks stations on CW, but this was the first one of me calling CQ. So thats a good thing. Now, i need to spend some time tomorrow working on this antenna and getting things just right and everything should be ticketyboo. Ticketyboo I tell you 😉
So I got a bit of a thing going at the moment. Lets call CW on all the bands that I use, 40, 20, 15 and 10m and just see what spots we get on the RBN and then do this everyday for a week, around the same time and see just how the results change each day. Seems like a good thing to do now we have a lot of sunspots and some solar flux happening. I will update this thread as the week rolls along.
Lots on 40m into the USA, not much on 20 and up.
Not so much on 40m, but a lot more on 20m and up.
My worst effort yet. I did make a contact though on 40m, VK4FOMP came back to my CQ call, i was not prepared and looked like a total idiot.
Interesting the difference that an hour can make, went from nothing to something. Conditions are certainly different today than they have been all week. A spot in The Canary Islands and nothing on 20m and up.
The worst conditions so far this week.
Well that is a sad end and uneventful end to the week on RBN. We have thunder and lightning very very frightening LOL and my antenna are currently disconnected. So what can we make of all this, well nothing really. But it has been a bit of fun to see how the bands have changed and how the number of spots received have tailed off with the solar flux numbers. Maybe I should repeat this in the mornings and see how that changes over time also. Thats something for another week.
I love CW, I am also rather crap at CW, but now and again i like to have a go just to see what happens, sometimes its good, sometimes its bad. This story is the latter HAHA.
Something i do now and again when bored, it drop the the bottom of the band and hit the auto keyer on the radio and just leave it call CQ for 10mins. Bottom parts of the bands are often dead, conditions have not been all that good for a while for anything other than FT8. But with the sun spots and solar flairs, other modes are looking up.
So last night after getting bored with FT8 I dropped down to CW on 15m tuned around and heard 1 station in the UK calling CQ, i worked him and then found a frequency to park on and call CQ. After 10mins of calling I was just about to call it a night and then out the blue someone came back to my call.
I was not prepared for this, no time time to pray to god, i was on my own. So, i copied the call quite ok, UA3DEQ, entered that into my log and proceeded to send him a report. This is where things went really really wrong.
I was making mistakes and making corrections and worst of all, he kept sending back NO NO NO UA3DEQ. This morning, in a moment of clarity realized that I was not sending Q dah dah di dah, I was sending L dah di dah dah. HAHAHA what a moron. I did send Igor an email and explained my predicament and he seemed understanding. I really need to work on my CW skills a lot more. With the sunspots improving and moving into the new solar cycle, I am going to have to spend a lot more time doing CW and much less time doing FT8.
I did get there in the end and sent Q a few times, survival, that was my great victory.
Ok, well it was not one of the greatest mysteries of all time. Certainly not an Agatha Christie novel, but, I found out what this morse key actually is. The key itself was easy enough, its a PMG key from WW2, it was the base that I could not find anything about on google. Anyway it turns out that it was a lantern signallers key from WW2. Use for short range communications on the battle field and came in a metal case, with a battery and a hand held light. They are pretty common and not worth a lot. But, still an interesting bit of history none the less.
Here is a picture of one in mint condition, all bolted into the lid of the box that housed the battery and light.
I have had this bad boy sitting in a box for a while now. Unused and unloved. Well up until a few weeks ago I could not use it into anything but a dummy load because my old license restrictions did not allow me to transmit with anything other than a commercially manufactured transmitter. And being a good little boy, I had actually followed that rule.
So anyone, in box 1 we have a pixie, in box 2 we have an iambic keyer and the key is a Begali. I plan to fire it up tonight and see if i can get picked up anywhere on RBN, hear myself on a VK2 Kiwi SDR or even make a contact with a mate of mine who lives in VK3. RBN will be doable, VK4CT is just up the hill from me and I should be able to get a report from him at least.
So I got excited and rather than waiting on all the bits from China i ordered to polish the crap out of this, I decided just to put it into service. I am still waiting for the right sized lower springs to arrive from China, these ones i cut out of ones i bought from Bunnnings (hardware store in VK) and they do not sit correct. But, the key works, its nice and smooth and even though its not polished to within an inch of its life, i am very happy with how this turned out. I learned a lot and if i do another one, I know i can make it better than this one by a long shot.
All the bits have finally arrived and I can get onto making a key. Not your average crap key made from a paper clip or a couple of bananas and a peg, but something that is going to be solid and last a lifetime. Well, as part of my plan to home brew an entire station from key to antenna and everything in between, I have taken a break from the receiver project while i wait on some parts and will focus on building a key for a while.
Parts are 100x10mm aluminum, 30x10mm aluminum, 10mm delrin, knurnled nuts M4, M4 threaded rod, M4 copper rivets and some spring-a-ma-things.
The plan is to made a not very pretty but very functional straight key. Its going to be no Begali or Kent even, but I think it should work ok.
So i have made a start on it and cut out the base plate, yes I using aluminum for the base and not wood, the 2 pivot blocks and what will eventually become the arm. I have hit an impasse tonight and cannot cut the arm out until morning when i can open the garage door and get access to the vice. Onward and upward.
Day 2: Its starting to take shape.
So much sanding. LOL. Yeah its probably going to take 10 hours of sanding to get things perfect.
And the sanding continues LOL
Its coming along nicely.
Added some random springs for a temporary test and it seems to work quite fine. Actually when i make it properly adjustable and put a knob on it, it should be a pretty good unit all round. Waiting on springs to come from china. So not much doing now for 3 weeks.
So i have one of those god awful chinese cw keys designed for the FT817 that I use portable so i do not have to take the Begali with me. Expensive key being bashed about does not sound appealing to me. Anyway, i have used tape and all sorts of methods of holding this thing in place for use. But the other day I finally made up a suitable base for it to make the worst key in the world almost usable.
I routed up some bits of 6mm ply on the CNC and did a quick dry run to see if it was going to work.
Next i droped the rig in place and all seemed to be good.
Gave it a good sanding and then glued it all together with some 5min epoxy
The end result, the weight of the light weight rig is enough to hold the key in place and make it useable.